George “Funky” Brown, longtime drummer and co-founder of Kool & The Gang, has died at the age of 74.
The musician died Thursday in Los Angeles, according to a statement released by Universal Music.
He retired earlier this year after announcing he had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
His decision to step down comes nearly 60 years after he helped create the Grammy Award-winning group, known for hits such as Celebration, Too Hot, Joanna and Ladies Night.
Kool & The Gang’s catchy combination of jazz, funk, soul and disco – which Brown dubbed the “sound of happiness” – allowed them to sell millions of records and build an army of fans spanning generations .
In tributes on social media, the band described Brown as “the funkiest drummer the world has ever seen” in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
“Thank you for giving us the sound of happiness,” they added.
American music producer and Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers wrote on X: “Sincere condolences to your family, friends and funk.”
Kool & The Gang, originally named The Jazziacs, was started in 1964 in Jersey City by Brown alongside bassist Robert “Kool” Bell, keyboardist Ronald Bell and guitarist Charles Smith.
After years of relative obscurity as well as name and personnel changes, the group made its breakthrough in the mid-1970s with its songs Jungle Boogie and Hollywood Swinging.
They peaked in the late 1970s to mid-1980s with the ballads Cherish and Joanna and the hit Celebration, which remains a holiday favorite played at weddings and festive gatherings.
The group’s success earned them a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015.
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This year, Brown produced the group’s latest album, People Just Wanna Have Fun, and released his memoir Too Hot: Kool & The Gang & Me.
He is survived by his wife Hanh Brown and his five children.
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Relatives said any donations made in his honor should go to the Lung Cancer Society of America.